In France, cooking a coq au vin is part of the national heritage – you just walk into your local butcher's and pop a coq in your basket. In this country, the dish doesn't translate so well – apart from anything else it isn't easy to find a cock bird. The point of using a cock bird for coq au vin is that the meat is a bit tougher, tastes better and is perfect for long, slow cooking so that the wine flavour permeates the dish.
I think that guinea fowl makes a perfect alternative here – the meat has a fantastic depth of flavour. At the restaurants we use guinea fowl from Woolley Park Farm (woolleyparkfarm.co.uk ); these ones are slowly reared and therefore are much larger and gamier than your average guinea fowl – perfect for a dish such as this.
The lovely flavours in this dish are also achieved by giving the meat a three- or four-day long soaking in a fairly tannic red-wine marinade which eats its way into the flesh.
Traditionally, most recipes use button or Paris mushrooms but I think that meaty wild mushrooms make a much better addition if you can get your hands on some.
Mark Hix is the owner of Hix, London W1
2 medium-sized guinea fowl
1 x 750ml bottle of gutsy red wine
Vegetable oil for frying
60g flour, plus more for dusting
2tsp tomato purée
500ml dark meat stock (a beef cube or fresh ready-made stock)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the marinade
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
10 black peppercorns
For the garnish
60g thickly-sliced bacon or pancetta, cut into 1-2cm cubes (these can be bought pre-cut from supermarkets)
Vegetable oil for frying
150g firm mushrooms such as ceps, girolles or button mushrooms, cleaned, quartered or cut into bite-sized pieces
24 button onions or small peeled onions
1tsp caster sugar
A good knob of butter
Remove the legs from the guinea fowl and cut the knuckles off; then cut each leg in half at the joint.
Chop the carcass in half through the central breast bone and chop away the back bone which has no meat on. Cut each breast into 2 or 3, depending on the size of the bird, then put all of the joints into a stainless steel container with the wine and the rest of the ingredients for the marinade.
Mix well, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate for at least 3 or 4 days, and up to a week in the fridge.
Remove the pieces of guinea fowl from the marinade and dry on some kitchen paper. Season them and dust with flour.
Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the pieces of guinea fowl on a high heat, giving them a nice brown colour all over, then drain on some kitchen paper.
Preheat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole, with a lid, that fits in the oven.
Add the flour and mix well, then the tomato purée, and cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring well, until it starts to turn a light brown colour.
Gradually add the marinade, stirring well to avoid lumps forming, and all of the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the guinea fowl pieces, season lightly with salt and pepper, cover and cook in the oven for about an hour or until tender.
Fry the pieces of bacon in about a tablespoon of vegetable oil for 3-4 minutes until lightly coloured, remove the pieces on to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and lightly sauté for 3-4 minutes until lightly coloured, add the cooked bacon and put to one side.
Meanwhile, put the button onions in a pan, cover with lightly salted water and add the sugar and butter. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and put them with the mushrooms and bacon.
Pour the guinea fowl and sauce into a colander, over a bowl, to catch the sauce. Strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve into a saucepan and simmer until the sauce has reduced by about half and thickened. If the sauce is not thick enough, mix a little cornflour in water and stir into the sauce until it thickens.
Remove the guinea fowl pieces from the colander and add to the sauce with the mushrooms, onions and bacon. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve with rice cooked in chicken stock, or mashed or boiled potatoes.